My name is Theresa McMillan, and I was born with a very rare birth defect called Moebius Syndrome. It affects mainly my face. I’m missing some nerves in my face that cause expressions, so I can’t smile or have any facial expressions. I also have some hand and feet deformities.
Sometimes I wish I could smile, especially at people that I really like and care about. But I do smile just in a different way, I usually like to hug or touch my friends to show I care. I know I have to be careful about this, because some people think it’s weird or inappropriate. So, I only hug people I know well.
Because my feet did not develop properly, I wear prosthetics. They look really cool. The bottoms are made like real feet and actually have toes! This is neat because now I really have feet. Although I still have trouble sometimes with walking, they help me to be sturdier and more balanced.
Eating in front of people can be hard. Because the nerves and the muscles in my face don’t work properly, I have to eat differently. My mouth is open, and I have to use my hand to chew so I like to eat soft food.
Even though I have some disabilities, I like to do things just like anyone else. I like to go to town. I like to go to the movies. I like to read and write and sometimes draw. Writing is very important to me, because it gives me a voice. Sometimes it helps me to express things that are hard for me emotionally. I like writing stories with a positive message and someday I’d like to be a famous author.
There are other things that are also difficult for me. Sometimes I don’t understand when someone talks too fast or does things quickly. Socially it is hard for me as well. Sometimes I feel slighted by people who don’t invite me or think I may not be interested in something. I wish they would ask me about how I would like to do something instead of just thinking about it themselves.
Emotionally I’m very sensitive, I take things to heart. If I feel that someone is being harsh or impatient with me, I can get nervous and upset. Sometimes I wish people would take the time to understand how I feel or help me with the things that they want me to understand.
Having a disability can be challenging at times, but it also can be a positive thing. I believe having a disability has made me a stronger person in different ways. It has helped me to be more compassionate and understanding of people. I feel that I’m a deeper person and see beneath the surface rather than superficially. I know I’m here for a reason and that I want to teach about love and compassion and appreciating differences.
I think it is very hard to be compassionate today. Everyone is so busy that they don’t have time to be patient or understanding of people that are different. Society wants people to be a certain way and if they are not, then they are considered undesirable. Sometimes I have felt pressure from society and even sometimes from my own friends to be something that I’m not.
I believe compassion is a deep understanding. Many people have misconceptions of compassion. They think of giving money or trying to fix someone is the answer. Sometimes there are things in life that cannot be fixed. Compassion is spending time with someone and learning to look and to love beyond the difference to the heart and soul. Each disabled person is different, and you have to love the difference. Compassion is the fashion.
So, what if I look a little different? So, what if I don’t have feet? So what if I’m a little slow, a little more sensitive, and a little more affectionate than other people? That is who I am. All I want to be is loved and accepted for who I am, and that on the inside I have feelings just like anybody else. I don’t want people to be sad about the things I can’t do. I want them to be glad about the things I can do. I also want people to appreciate themselves more.
I wrote a children’s book several years ago called I’m Smiling on the Inside. I wrote it to help children to understand and to accept people that are different. I think children can accept difference if they are taught that it is okay to be different. Children also need to see acceptance from adults in their lives.
My Moebius smile maybe different than other people’s smiles, but it is a smile just the same. It is just you have to look a little more closely.